Elucidating natural and anthropogenic marine processes using molecular biomarkers
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Molecular biomarkers were first used in fossil fuel geochemistry, marking the beginning of the organic geochemistry field, but soon their utilization expanded to environmental research. This thesis uses both nonpolar and polar biomarker analysis of environmental samples to track inputs, transport, and transformations of organic carbon in the marine environment. In the second chapter, the results showed a massive accumulation of petroleum-derived compounds in Gulf of Mexico sediments after the Macondo well blowout that reached a maximum in the fall of 2010, followed by a strong decrease in concentration. In the third chapter, increased levels of energy reserve compounds (e.g. sugars) and n-alkanols were determined to be an indicator of seasonal thermal stress that corals located in the Florida Keys were subjected to in 2000, and possibly in previous years, providing a chemical distinction between bleaching resistant and non-resistant zooxanthellae (a symbiotic dinoflagellate species that lives in the coral tissue).